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The Power of Content: Shaping a Culture Around Your Business

When it comes to approaching social media and the other communications deployed to build a brand or business it’s important to understand the significance of content and how it can be instrumental in developing and shaping the culture around your business.

Have you ever thought about your business in terms of culture?  Have you thought about the experience you’re providing to prospective clientele when they encounter or engage with your business?

These terms, when it comes to building a business are not typically given much consideration.  Marketing tends towards active advertising, promotion and selling rather than building an experience.

How do you feel when you’re being sold to?

We eagerly develop pitches and work to employ recommended techniques all geared to the end-game of generating leads, and ideally, sales; but how have we engaged our mission, values and personality to ensure that our communications represent the full picture of our business and ourselves, as entrepreneurs?Connect rather than simply sell.

UX, or User Experience, is often referenced when we talk about the performance of websites and apps,  but rarely do we explore the concept when it comes to the promotion of products and/or services – the business, itself.

Developing and shaping the culture, the experience, digitally – providing for the UX – is essential for growing a brand and business that looks to build trust as well as a sense of authority in the space.  Where, because of the type and quality of information you consistently provide, prospective clients feel compelled to engage with your business.

Look at your digital presence.  Explore your website and other communications, as well as digital assets, and see what they’re providing in UX. Try to evaluate the experience visitors might be having with your brand and whether or not there’s a culture developing that they might connect to.

What are you offering your audience before you try to sell them?

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Social Media & Content Marketing: Is it Good for Small Business?

 

Did you know that one in five relationships and one in six marriages was initiated online?  Over 67 percent of consumers utilize social media for customer service. The average person spends around an hour and 40 minutes browsing social media every day, and the number of internet shoppers in the US will reach 217 million, having spent about $4.846 TRILLION DOLLARS last year.

At this point in the Internet Age it’s evident everyone is pretty much on board with the power of social media in our lives, from dating to shopping to business development.

However, as a small business that caters to the online marketing needs of small and medium sized businesses and organizations I continue to encounter a big disconnect between small business owners and their concept of what social media means to their business.  Despite the fact that many of them are certainly part of the statistics mentioned above, they are still reticent about it embracing it as part of their over all marketing mix.

While I do successfully sell clients on the importance of Social Media and Content Marketing… it ain’t easy!

This isn’t to knock all the hard working folks in small business.  Not at all.

The fact is, in an effort to save precious marketing pennies, it’s not unusual for owners of small businesses to take a very hands on, DIY approach, to their online marketing.  Because we feel we have to.

To save money, we small business people will compromise what’s left of our limited hours in a day, taking great care in where we spend our small, if not meagre, marketing budget, but burning through our valuable time as though it were in limitless supply.

Theoretically, tackling online marketing can seem easy.  Most businesses have a Facebook page, after all.  but as a result of not having the expertise or adequate time, the activity is approached so casually as to be completely ineffective.  This haphazard approach, unfortunately, confirms their apprehension about the effectiveness of social media and they miss a great opportunity to expand the reach of their business, grow their following and properly develop an audience that can offer potential leads and prospective clients.

Here are a few vital reasons why social media should be taking greater priority, and, more often that not, be hired out to a professional.  Properly executed social media efforts should:

  1. Collect valuable customer insights:  Through daily active engagement and social listening, you can gather relevant customer data and use that information to make smarter business decisions.
  2. Increase brand awareness:  A presence on social media allows prospective and existing customers to easily find and connect with you.  It’s not unusual, even for brick & mortar businesses, to be frustrated by the fact their business, product or service is still yet relatively unknown to a great number of people in their town or city.  If yours is an online business, you can count on millions more having no idea you exist.
  3. Increase your website traffic:  Not only does social media help you direct people to your website, but the more social media shares you receive, the more positively your search ranking is impacted.  Social media allows you to leverage content to draw visitors from Facebook, twitter or any other channel to your website to learn more about your product or service.
  4. Establish your business as a thought leader in your space:  Social media allows you a free, frequent and far-reaching means to provide the information and resources important to setting you apart from your competition and becoming the ‘go to’ in your space.

To achieve these outcomes, it takes concentrated effort.  It’s strategic and done with explicit intention.  It’s more than a Facebook post of your product or service when you’re feeling obligated to do so.

If you can assign someone in-house with the relevant interest and expertise, good for you – do that!  If you really don’t have anyone, including yourself, that can make the necessary commitment, consider outsourcing to a professional who can fulfill the demands of social media and content marketing in a way that’s going to be meaningful to your business.

Of course, upended creative is happy to take this on for you!  Contact us below to learn more about effective content marketing strategy and implementation to help grow your business.

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Your Content Marketing: It’s Really Quite Simple… Just Not Easy!

 

I spent a lovely snowy afternoon yesterday talking to a small business, web design client about how she might amp up and generate engagement with not only her website but also her social media, specifically Facebook – tools integral to growing her business and expanding her influence and reach.  Essentially, her content marketing strategy.

She’s eager and willing and wanting to be able to handle it herself.  I was more than happy to consult with her about strategy and how to get started, taking those all-important first steps to getting into the necessary routine of taking the reins of her own content marketing.

Content marketing is really quite simple but don’t get to thinking it’s going to be easy!

I was VERY clear with her.  The principles involved in content marketing are really quite simple… they’re just not easy.  It’s not hard to get across the importance of the consistent creation and publishing of fresh, valuable content in increasing engagement on a website and social media.  Clients nod with understanding, albeit reluctant.

Where sh%t gets real is when I start outlining what they have to do, the action that inevitably has to happen to see real results.  Explaining even the initial phases of strategy which will require a commitment to consistent action in the form of writing, taking pictures and video, posting, publishing even on a weekly basis… the eyes glaze over, fingers reflexively clench around the pen in hand, an exasperated face palm.

The fun is talking about target market, the great product or service, all the great information to share.

But, let’s face it… the doing is a whole other can of worms.  My consultations with clients looking to explore expanding their reach, increasing engagement and traffic and, ultimately, see sales and business improve leave them feeling like they CAN do it.  But, unless action is taken in short order following the meeting, the challenge, and challenges, mount.  Excuses abound.

And, of course they do.  Managing a business and taking full responsibility for the active marketing of that business, even a small business, is a butt-load of work.  Overwhelm is inevitable with most small business people, and if they’re not naturally inclined to write and create content, taking that on in addition to the daily workload of running their business is a tough row to hoe.  Unfortunately, it falls off the list of to-do’s and is abandoned all together.

How do you eat an elephant?  Ummmmm… you don’t!

Forget about the big picture! This isn’t about tearing something huge into small, bite size chunks.  We don’t want or need to consider the hugeness of the task at all.  Let’s take the anticipated results, the increased sales, the business growth out of this initial equation.

We actually want to go back to the drawing board.  What excites you about your business?  What information do you have that not only will prove valuable to share, but will also set you apart from the competition as an authority in your field or marketplace?  What can you share – for free! – that will keep people wanting to know more.

Simply share that!  Share your enthusiasm for what you do; the product or service you provide; the supplementary information that can help build interest and buzz about your business.

5 simple steps to jump-start your content marketing

Here’s the simple outline I gave my client, a physiotherapist offering a range of services from orthopaedic and sports medicine to acupuncture to alternative healing therapies, committed to wellness and education:

  •  – Consider your range of services including the variety of workshops and courses you have in the works.
  •  – Take notes about each.  Jot simply in point form and make them detailed. Explore how each of the points might be developed as an independent topic for either blog or Facebook.
  • – Monthly: develop a blog post.  The workshops and courses she conducts are perfect for more in-depth, informational posts on the website; same goes for potential impediments such as flat feet or knocked knees that could benefit from a more fleshed out approach.  Share these posts on social media. Often!  Blog posts can be repurposed over and over with fresh headlines on Facebook.  Great for driving traffic!
  • – Twice weekly: Facebook posts with short tips, tricks, advice that include photos and even video as she tends to create these always as a matter of course for work.
  • – DO IT!!!

Given the gist of this post, clearly number 5 is the biggest challenge to seeing this strategy take shape and allow her to more fully develop her goals and actions moving forward.

At the end of the day, what seems a simple enough plan just may not be do-able, for any number of really good reasons.  That’s OK!

Fortunately, that’s where upended creative can come in!  Maybe your step #5 means hiring someone else who has the skills and makes the time to explore and implement your strategy to help you achieve your goals.  So be it… and we’re more than happy to help!

Meantime, in the spirit of taking action and how, like it or not, is essential to achieving just about everything we do in a day, big or small, take a look at this helpful little gem to help get the juices flowing!

Speaking of… time to get these homeschool kids of mine up and at ’em!  Simple, yes.  Easy?  Are you out of your mind?!?!

 

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Creative Content Works… Even If Your Niche Might Be A Little Boring

It’s 2017 and I’m trying not to crawl down that crazy rabbit hole of offering more content marketing trends to expect for the coming year.  It’s tough… because I, like every other entrepreneur out there, wants to know what will  be most effective to draw eyeballs, generate leads and, well, put food in the babies’ mouths.  My babies are all either near, or of, the teenage persuasion, so consider food in mouths a never-freaking-ending endeavour (read:  hire me, pleeeeease!)

I’ll talk content marketing for this New Year… but it’s gotta be creative content

Here’s the deal: content still reigns supreme.  And 2017 is going to see a whole lot more of it!  But, more than ever, it’s going to be creative content that gets those ever-lovin’ eyeballs and those valuable click-throughs.

What does that mean if you have a business that is less than creative?  What if your niche is actually pretty dry and boring?

Creative content has redefined and repositioned several pretty boring businesses that have become part of our general cultural lexicon.  Think Geico and the adorable Geico gekko; the obnoxious but infectious Aflac duck; and, doubling down on boring niches, toilet paper employing the adorable Scotties kittens back in the day or the cuddly Charmin bears who seem to have no shame over-sharing about their wiping habits.

You may have a boring product but your marketing and content certainly don’t have to be.

First rule of thumb for developing creative content:  go visual!

Instagram and Snapchat have raised the bar on what effective and engaging content means.  It’s all about the images, the video, the animation.

The centuries (???) old saying, “A picture is worth a thousand words” couldn’t possibly have more relevance than it does today.

Images, whether still or moving, catch our attention.  It is VITALLY important that you, and whomever you’ve hired to assist (ahem!), approach all of your digital marketing collateral from a visual perspective.

Repeat after me:  I pledge that no post, whether it be blog, Facebook or twitter, shall be published without a corresponding, relevant image, animation or video.

Creative content for content marketing

Everyone loves a good story

What kind of stories can be told about your product, service or business?  Who are your clients?  What are clients concerns?  What problem are you solving?

We can get even a little more, let’s say, transcendent, about this:  what is a common theme that runs throughout your target audience that resonates, defines or connects?

There are brands selling boring products that have discovered the power of story-telling, going deep to tap into our sentimentality, our need to belong, and possibly even our insecurities to enjoy hugely increased profile and profits.

Without overtly selling you soap, Dove directed their attention, and yours, to beauty as concept and what it means to us as women individually, and as a movement.  Dove implies that they stand for beauty in all it’s forms regardless size, race, age; flying in the face of the ridiculous and harmful media driven standards that drive us all to relative madness.  In this effort, Dove endeavours to stand apart, and above, taking a moral and ethical position on women beauty and empowerment… as opposed to simply selling us yet another boring bar of soap.

Always keep in mind, content marketing is more than simply a product pitch.  Rather than talking about product, look to content marketing to drive value outside the products and services you offer.

You NEED a content strategy

In what is a veritable freaking sea of content, winging it is going to cost you money and time.  Mitigate the marketing outgo and develop a coherent and focused direction to best communicate with your target audience.

From blogs to all the other channels of social media you already, or will begin to employ; determine not only what kind of content, what kind of messaging, but the voice in which you will create it, to maximize your marketing spending.

The unfortunate fact is, most businesses do not have a documented content marketing strategy.   Those organizations that do have one and that review it consistently, however, are more likely to be successful. Again, it’s not just about what you’re selling, what else can you be doing – or communicating – to build relationship, trust and value?

There you have it:  a few quickies to set you off on your 2017 creative content marketing way!

Which brings me to… well, me.  If you’d like more information on how to best implement any of the above, or, better yet, have upended creative implement any of the above, talk to me!

I would love to hear about your boring product or service and help you use creative content and content marketing to sell the hell out of it!  Scroll a little further to give me a holler!

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The Marketing Funnel of Love: Content Marketing and Funnelling Leads

Marketing your business online can seem enough of a burden that many simply don’t even want to get started (see last post!).  

It wasn’t that long ago that adverts in the local paper, perhaps a radio spot or even a billboard were what you did to let people know you were out there.  It was a relatively known quantity, probably a sure thing at raising the profile of your business and, let’s face it, wonderfully passive.  Pay for a spot, whether it be magazine, TV, radio or billboard… and wait for the phone calls.

Build it, buy ad space… and they will come, right?

Not so, this brave new world of Internet marketing.  Marketing  your business has become a decidedly impassive endeavour.  It requires far more engagement on the part of business person to encourage engagement and, ultimately, legitimate leads on the part of the target market.

Developing leads and increasing sales through the use of blog and/or social media :  creating useful, engaging and perhaps even inspiring content can be the difference between converting a new customer and making a sale or not.  If you’re looking to dip your toe into the roiling waters of what is now known as content marketing here is a bit of an introduction to the route both business and prospect have to travel.

The Content Marketing Funnel is a great tool to help visualize the phases a prospect must experience to go from cold to client. 

Blogs are fantastic facilitators of awareness

… but do very little to facilitate evaluation and conversion.

Unfortunately, most content marketing stops at blogging.  Without a doubt, blogs play a major role in content marketing, but they’re only a part of the bigger picture. You might be surprised to learn that, in most cases, a blog is not actually the most lucrative form of content marketing.

Your content, from blog to social media to email to podcast, helps to set you apart from your competition.  It serves to elevate you as an authority in your market and engages and hopefully grows your community and target audience.  But without providing the necessary content to close the deal, fulfill evaluation and conversion, it’s essentially for naught as I’m sure you’re already painfully aware, it’s these steps that are essential to the growth and success of your business.

Certainly as you consider what takes a cold prospect to paying customer the Content Marketing Funnel will provide you a foundation, some tried and true steps, that can ensure you are growing the awareness, leads and conversions that will grow your business.

Content marketing must incorporate the Marketing Funnel.

Content Marketing Funnel Explained

For that prospect who has no clue who you are or what you do to become your customer they’ll need to travel this funnel.  Let’s take a look at what lies ahead of them in more detail:

  1. Awareness – your prospect must, of course, first become aware that there is a problem and that you and your business have the solution for it. What facilitates the awareness is the content you provide them at the top of the funnel. This is where you dazzle prospects with your informative and entertaining blog posts, photographs, social media updates, graphics, email & newsletters and anything else you might present in digital, audio or print form.  This is your opportunity to educate, inform, inspire and, wherever possible, entertain.  This is often where most content marketing ends.  Make sure you are providing the appropriate content that moves prospects to the next step…
  2. Evaluation – This is where potential customers evaluate the multitude of choices available to them.  This includes what you’re offering as well as that which is offered by your competitors.  Bear in mind, one of the choices is also to take no action at all.  At this stage what are you providing that keeps them moving through the funnel? Coupons or discounts, free resources, maybe simply a quiz or survey to guide their interest. Host a contest or an event, maybe a webinar offering a free introduction to the solution you’re providing.  Don’t forget about testimonial or client stories!  These are fantastic opportunities to provide the confirmation prospects need to move on to the next phase of the funnel.
  3. Conversion – Calls to action!  The moment of potential action… a decision has been made and your lead is buying what you’re selling, so give them ample opportunities to make it so! What was once a prospect needs as many clear opportunities as you can provide to be converted into customer.
  4. Purchase – Ka-ching!  But will it be one purchase or an ongoing relationship resulting in a repeat customer?

 

There is a lot to consider as you lay out your content marketing strategy – a necessary step!! – and the Content Marketing Funnel is an integral part of understanding exactly what steps your prospects will need to travel in order to convert to paying customers.

Want to see what a Content Marketing Funnel might look like for your business?  Scroll down and get yourself a FREE consultation!

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No Time for Social Media?

With a background in design and development, part of creating something useful and effective for the client is understanding exactly how they plan to use their new or refreshed web presence.

With small businesses, who often utilize their website as simply electronic business card, when confronted with the question about Social Media and how actively they plan to engage in it, it’s not unusual for the client to wince, if not outright cringe, and vehemently insist, “No, no social media – I don’t have time to worry about tweeting and Facebook.”

And they’d be right.  They feel as though they don’t.  Particularly if they haven’t done it before.

I’m a content creator.  And, as such I tend to proselytize the power of fresh content and maintaining a variety of channels to promote product and/or service to not only do the important work of building community and audience, but actual business.

As my clients protest, I sit back resigned but understanding, well aware how daunting the task appears.

Chances are you’re using social media on a regular basis already

I don’t leave it there, however.  Social engagement and utilizing social channels are too valuable to let go without a stronger pitch.  I get them thinking about it further by asking a couple of simple questions:

  1. Who is your target market.  To whom will you be directing your more conventional advertising efforts?
  2. What is your favourite way to communicate?  For instance, are you partial to quick, entertaining anecdotes; do you take a lot of pictures with your phone?

 

Social Media for Small Businesses

Only a couple of questions, but they can provide important insights to someone who doesn’t consider marketing through social media right for them.

Chances are pretty good that most people are contributing in some way or other to a particular channel in their regular day-to-day.  It’s just a matter of better directing that effort to marketing their business.

In retail?  Use the snaps you’re already taking to flesh out your Instagram or Facebook accounts as you consider your greater messaging and how that can be implemented in hashtags directed to your market to gain followers.

Have a landscape business?  Same goes.  There’s nothing better than a visual to use before and afters as well as progress snapshots to better promote your services.

Social media becomes yet another business asset

These are only a couple of examples, but they work regardless the industry.  Real estate, construction, technology, you name it… all industries where social media can be effectively leveraged to grow your community, following and, ultimately, leads.

As you build out your content it becomes another asset of your business, creating a space that you occupy, contributing to the value of your product or service.  And, better than your conventional avenues of marketing, largely free.

So, before discounting entirely, ask yourself the two simple questions above, and then give it a go.  If you keep at it a while, you might actually be surprised that you 1. actually might enjoy it a little and, 2. reap the tangible benefits of connecting with your people, growing your following and increasing your potential for leads and sales.

If you’d like more information on how social media will work for your business, please don’t hesitate to ask – scroll down!

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Content Strategy – Do I Need One?

Content Strategy- Do I Need One?

These last few years have seen the veritable explosion of “content” as part of marketing plans. As content marketing finds its place in marketing strategies and budgets, it’s the task of developing an actual content strategy, to more effectively and accurately target content to better connect to and grow audience – and ultimately market share – that is becoming the more desirable, not to mention highly productive, approach.

Content Strategy: As you get to know your audience, you get to know the content that will resonate

With social media largely ubiquitous in business plans large and small, the concepts of content creation, content marketing and content strategy has gained significant parlance in audience engagement in the larger picture of brand development.

Content marketing involves identifying and developing the story that an organization tells and focusing on ways to engage an audience, using content to drive profitable behaviours – likes, shares, link clicks, visits, etc.  Content strategy, on the other hand, digs deeper into the creation, publication and governance of useful content, actually helping an organization manage content as a business asset.  Both essential in a focused marketing approach to better engage, inform and build an audience along with  your business.

Do I need a Content Strategy?

Yes!  Yes, you do!  And here are some reasons why:

  • A content strategy ensures that content is consistent with brand values and messaging.  Identifying to whom, or with whom, you are communicating is part and parcel of developing a content strategy.  Content created on the fly often leads to a collection of disparate and random content with no identifiable focus, theme or purpose. The lack of consistency and directive can confuse your audience and, ultimately, reflect poorly on your brand.
  • A content strategy helps target your content to more effectively connect with, and build, audience.  Identifying to whom, or with whom, you are communicating is part and parcel of developing a content strategy.  This ensures that the content you create will resonate with, but more importantly, be of value to, your audience.  If you provide content that engages and is valued it is more likely to encourage profitable behaviours. Bottom line: generic, stock, content doesn’t get shared.
  • A content strategy allows the content you create to build your authority and credibility in your market.  Quality content is a great way to demonstrate your expertise, knowledge and experience in your marketplace.  Creating and sourcing valuable content to provide to your audience sets you apart a having a more thorough handle on your product or service, building more audience confidence in your business, helping position your brand as a credible and expert resource.  This allows for quality over quantity: less content that is meaningful and relevant has more impact.
  • A content strategy ensures that your content is geared to help you stand out from the crowd.  Determine how you can offer fresh, thought-provoking perspectives through relevant and compelling content that will help generate interest and curiosity.
  • A content strategy lends to measurable efficiency & effectiveness.  CMI data shows that 60% of B2B marketers with a documented content strategy “rate themselves highly in terms of content marketing effectiveness”, compared to 32% of those who don’t. The increased demand for content is driving the need for efficiency in content creation. A Demand-Gen report shows that 75% of B2B buyers rely more on content to research and make purchasing decisions than they did a year ago, with most buyers viewing 5 or more pieces of content before deciding to buy.
  • A content strategy helps identify & hit goals.  CMI found that only 35% of marketers have a documented content strategy, but of those marketers, 94% indicate that their content strategy ‘very closely’ or ‘somewhat’ guides their organization’s content marketing efforts. Additionally, recent Aberdeen research shows that best-in-class companies that use a content strategy “enjoy five times higher revenue contribution from content efforts than their peers”.

Developing a content strategy

  1. Establish the all-important “why” and the vision.  Establishing a common vision is an essential first step. Consider why you’re creating content. Know your brand story and identify the greater messaging of your brand and outline how that will be communicated through your content. How will your content be used? How will the success of the content be measured? How does it relate to larger organizational goals and the bottom-line?
  2. Outline your strategy.  You can’t just jump into creating content at random. According to Aberdeen, almost half of B2B organizations create content “in an ad hoc fashion”, while only 7% of best-in-class organizations do. Clearly, the best-in-class never approach content flying by the seat of their pants.  Their approach is one of focused planning. Define how content is created, compiled, and reviewed. What are the basic standards for content? These points can guide the process: (1) Why you’re sharing a specific piece of content, (2) who your target audience is, (3) what format your piece of content is going to take, (4) where it will have the greatest impact, (5) when you can gain the greatest engagement, and (6) how you will execute the strategy.
  3. Know your audience.  Whoa!  Showstopper, for sure!  Identifying to whom you are communicating is essential and, honestly, the most challenging.  Knowing what is important to them with regards to your product or service, also essential and equally challenging. But more than worth the effort.  This data informs your approach to the content you curate and create.  The most effective and valuable content is the content that is relevant, resonates and engages.  Important:  you can re-use your content!  Rule of thumb:  a single topic can be explored from different angles to develop at least 5 different types of content.  Also, consider the different mediums in which to connect:  beyond words to  images and video, for example.
  4. Know your channels.  Not knowing how to effectively distribute content is a most common problem.  Companies will post to their website and blog but forget to disseminate throughout the channels that are most likely to actually reach people. It’s about social media, people! LinkedIn is a powerful tool for B2B, Facebook, Instagram and twitter for B2Community.  This allows for maximum exposure to product, content, and message.
  5. Analyze & optimize. Can you believe only 21% of marketers regularly measure the results of their content? If you aren’t measuring, how can you possibly know what works and what doesn’t and how to adapt and adjust strategy moving forward? Set metrics, collect data, and analyze the success of each content program. Consider common content marketing KPIs such as website traffic, sales lead quality and quantity, conversion rates, SEO ranking, time spent on the website, shares, and subscriber growth. The tools are readily available and these valuable, actionable insights can be utilized to identify what content and topics to focus on in your content strategy and to centralize, streamline, and optimize the use of content within your organization.

 

Consider a content strategy for your business.  Perhaps you’ve already outlined your strategy and are simply in need of the content creation to make it come to life.  Either way, upended creative can serve you soup to nuts, from strategy to marketing to content writing.  Contact us today and let’s discuss how to best target your audience!